Episode 18 – Keep Your Mind Open and Your Brain Engaged with Robert C Martin

 In Podcasts

Robert C Martin (Uncle Bob) has been a software professional since 1970 and has worked in various capacities on hundreds of software projects.  In 2001 Robert initiated the meeting of the group that created Agile Software Development from Extreme Programming techniques.  Robert is also author of several books on programming and is a regular speaker at international conferences and trade shows.

In this episode Robert talks about the maturity of the I.T. industry, why continual learning is so important to your career and why the needs of the business are more important than technology and tools.  Robert also discusses the influence that I.T. has on everyday lives and why he believes the industry requires regulation of standards and ethics.

Time Stamped Show Notes

(00:50) – Phil introduces Robert

(01:22) – Robert tells us that he’s been a software developer for about half a century

(01:35) – Robert talks about having worked with a number of different types of computers


(01:53) – Unique Career Tip: Robert says that I.T. is a very young industry and we don’t know a lot about it yet

(02:14) – It’s easy to come out of school and to think you know all you need to know, but Robert says that you don’t

(02:30) – There is a lot to learn, such as high level software structure, discipline, practices, patterns, methods and techniques

(02:56) – Robert says that you need to keep your mind open and your brain engaged

(03:10) – Phil agrees that the I.T. industry is still in its infancy and more change will take place over the next few years


(03:21) – Worst Career Moment: Robert talks about being fired from a job 40 years ago

(03:36) – Robert had been married a couple of years and they were expecting their first child

(03:45) – Robert says that he was just enable to get his mind into the business part of the job

(04:03) – Robert was so focused on the software and the technology that the business meant nothing to him

(04:11) – Robert would forget critical business meetings and dates, and didn’t pay attention to what the users of the system cared about

(04:24) – Even though Robert was warned, he was unable to get his head into it and was eventually fired

(04:39) – It made a big impression on Robert.  He was able to change his ways and adjust the way he thought about the importance of understanding the business

(04:47) – Don’t let the excitement of tools and technology be more important to you than the needs of your employer and their business


(05:36) – Career Highlight / Greatest Success: Robert describes how a CEO asked him to spearhead the invention of a new product

(06:28) – Robert talks about assembling a small team to brainstorm what a new product might look like

(06:43) – The company was at the cross roads of telecommunications and computers

(06:55) – They came up with the notion of voicemail and an automated attendant to route calls and take messages

(07:33) – By this time disk storage had shrunk to the size to make this possible

(07:42) – This was the first time that Robert had built a system, had a team working for him and delivered a new product

(08:00) – Robert feels that this was the most significant moment in his career

(08:12) – However they didn’t know how to sell and market the product which eventually collapsed

(08:30) – The company also unfortunately let the patent to voicemail lapse


(09:10) – What Excites You About The Future of a Career in I.T.? Robert talks about the evolution of technology and its impact on everyday life

(09:35) – We interact with software systems almost every minute and Robert provides many examples

(10:25) – Software dictates, manages and controls virtually every aspect of every waking moment of every person living in the western world

(10:37) – This is getting more and more significant as time goes by which means I.T. professionals rule the world

(11:09) – We are responsible for far more than we understand right now and eventually society will understand this regulate us

(11:34) – Robert hopes that we get there first before being told by politicians what the rules will be


(11:47) – The Reveal

(11:51) – What attracted you to an I.T. career in the first place? – “My mother bought me a small plastic computer.  I was fascinated by the little machine.  At the age of 12 I was a programmer and knew exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life”

(14:27) – What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? – “There is no problem too complicated to solve.  Relax, be calm, face it like a simple challenge and like you’re a master of it”

(16:09) – If you were to begin your I.T. career again, right now, what would you do? –”I would find someone ten years older than I am, who has been through the wringer a few times, and I would not let that person out of my sight for five years”

(16:52) – What career objectives are you focusing on right now? – “Three more books to write, videos to produce, lots of interesting things I want to do over the next several years.  I want to be part of the process that turns our industry into a true profession with standards and ethics”

(17:48) – What’s the number one non-technical skill that has helped you in your career so far? – “The ability to speak and write”


(18:53) – A Parting Piece of Career Advice: Robert says the I.T. industry thrashes about with new languages, new frameworks and new ideas every few weeks

(19:34) – This is a symptom of youth

(19:42) – You are going to have to learn all kinds of things that you may never use but you must learn them

(19:58) – You must always keep your books open and be reading them so that you’re ready when a new language or framework hits the mainstream

(20:18) – Never allow yourself to go down into a fading technology

(20:56) – It is not enough to depend on your employer for that knowledge

(21:06) – Groom your career and learn and never stop learning


3 Key Points:     

  1. The Information Technology industry is still very young
  2. Keep your mind open and your brain engaged
  3. Develop a business mindset


Resources Mentioned:

  • cleancoder.com – Robert’s personal consulting business website
  • cleancoders.com – Robert’s training videos website (circa 48 one hour videos)
  • LinkedIn – Robert’s LinkedIn profile


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